At our Nebraska Romance Writers conference, Stephanie Bond finally answered a long-standing question I’ve had about writing romance novels. I’ve asked this question of authors, at conferences, everywhere I could–but nobody answered until Stephanie Bond.
The question: Jane Ann Krentz wrote articles about familiar romance novel plots, such as secret baby, marriage of convenience, stranded in a snowstorm, amnesia, twins, etc. Readers are familiar with these and look for them. Editors are also aware of them, and can immediately tell what your book is about when you mention one. But I’ve always wondered how to use these in plotting a romance novel. What are they? Do I use them as the Internal Conflict, the External Conflict, or what?
Stephanie’s answer: They are the “Theme” of the book. Often, they have the External Conflict plot points built right in. For example, the Black Moment in a secret baby book comes when the heroine has to tell the hero that her baby is actually his. He, of course, gets angry that she never told him, and the whole relationship is in jeopardy.
These themes are not the Internal Conflicts. Those are particular to each individual character. That is where characterization comes in.
So, the way to plot a romance novel is made considerably easier. If you want to write a “secret baby” book, you already have many of your plot points and External Conflicts built in. To write a character-driven book, you ask “What kind of characters would get themselves into this situation? What are their individual Internal Conflicts that led them to this impasse?” That’s what makes each secret baby book different and deep–the characters whose story you’re telling!